| Fosters Daily Democrat
DOVER — Aubrey Lamontagne’s son was stillborn in August 2018 at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital.
“It was unexpected, he actually died during labor. It wasn’t something I was anticipating,” Lamontagne said during an interview this week about losing her son Jasper. “I was expecting to have a living baby. It’s been on my heart since that happened.”
After her son died, Lamontagne realized that “once your child is no longer there, you kind of want to do things so they’re remembered.”
“You’re missing what you expected during your pregnancy to be milestones, and after time goes by, people stop asking you about it, they stop remembering,” she said. “As a parent to a dead child, you often think about things you can do to remember them.”
That’s what led the 33-year-old to reach out to Sharon Sirois about creating a Children’s Garden at Pine Hill Cemetery.
Sirois is the facilities grounds and cemeteries superintendent for the city of Dover.
“My son was cremated so I don’t have a grave to go to, often people you tend to value, their name is there in stone,” she said. “I didn’t have that. I thought we could create a Children’s Garden for other families like me who don’t have a place to remember their children.”
When she called the Pine Hill Cemetery about her idea she didn’t know how the officials would react.
“It’s like a shot in the dark, but they embraced the whole idea,” Lamontagne said. “Sharon was just so supportive from the start.”
The city’s Cemetery Board has had initial discussions about the Children’s Garden and offered support for the project.
Lamontagne and Sirois said the project is still in the “early stages.”
“We need to make a plan for what the garden will look like and what size the monument will be,” Lamontagne said. “We’re in the planning stages, but I’m so glad they’re open to having it there.”
Once they have a plan for the garden, they can begin getting estimates about how much it will cost.
She stressed they don’t want to make the garden “feel like a tombstone.”
“I envision a place where someone can go and sit on a bench and remember their child or they can go on an anniversary date, just more of a public space where people can reflect on their child,” Lamontagne said.
From talking to other parents who have lost children to stillbirths or miscarriages, Lamontagne understands that even a few years ago many didn’t feel comfortable talking about it.
“Maybe someone who had the same experience 30 years ago can now go to the garden,” she said. “It might be something that I think can be really healing for people.”
Such a garden could give parents a way to remember that their children’s “lives did exist, even if it was just for a short period,” she said.
Many people still don’t realize how common stillbirths and miscarriages are, she said.
In 2014, about 24,000 stillbirths were reported in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A stillbirth is the death or loss of a baby before or during delivery. Both miscarriage and stillbirth describe pregnancy loss, but they differ according to when the loss occurs, according to the CDC.
In the United States, a miscarriage is usually defined as loss of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy, and a stillbirth is loss of a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
“It was something that I thought so many people didn’t want to talk about, regardless of how common it is,” Lamontagne said. “No one wants to talk about a dead baby.”
She stressed how important it is for medical providers to educate parents about what can go wrong during a pregnancy.
“I didn’t know stillbirth was a thing until it happened. Everything was going great until it wasn’t,” she said. “My baby just died, and all I could think was what is this, how could it happen.”
Lamontagne credited the staff at Wentworth-Douglas Hospital with the support they provided after her son died.
“It was just a very loving way they had of taking care of you,” she said. “They came in and talked to you, and gave you ways, if you wanted to, to spend time with your baby to have some memories.”
They also shared information about support groups, which she began participating in about two to three weeks later.
She also has relied on the Star Legacy Foundation, an online support group for parents who experienced stillbirths. The foundation is available at https://starlegacyfoundation.org/.
Even though Lamontagne lives in Barnstead, she received her prenatal care in Dover. That’s why she decided to start the Children’s Garden there.
“I guess my heart is really in Dover because that’s where my son was born and that’s where he died,” she said. “To have it someplace else would just be really random.”
For anyone wishing to talk to Lamontagne about the Children’s Garden or to help with fundraising, email her at [email protected]